Today was a bad day. My mother in law is sick, I’m worried for her and too far away. I somehow managed to throw myself down the stairs in celebration of President’s day. And I can’t sleep in part, because I think I have a concussion and I’m afraid that if I go to sleep I won’t wake up and my kids will be sitting writing sad blog posts about the loss of their mom with their hair uncombed and no vegetables in their bellies. So I’m working really hard to relax.
I’m sitting and watching The History of The Eagles, Part One and I can feel the loss of my mother as keenly as I would feel the loss of my leg. Most days she is a dull ache in the back of my bones like a whisper of arthritis. Today it is more, it’s like the fall I took down the stairs; I’m walking along, minding my business and then I find myself laying on the floor trying to figure out how I bashed my skull and cracked a rib. So I’m listening to Don Henley and Glenn Frey and my entire childhood is laid out before me like a soft, warm blanket; but with something missing. What it is missing, of course, is it’s heart; my mom. As I’m listening to these songs and artists that are such an integral part of my childhood I am listening with a different ear; the ear of a woman instead of a child. For me The Eagles are my mother, I can take myself back to age six, I am draped across my mother’s body on our new couch and she is absentmindedly playing with my hair as Peaceful, Easy Feeling plays on the record player. Another day she is lying on the couch with my brother playing on the floor in front of her as I flip through album covers over and over and Linda Ronstadt sings Desperado, we haven’t been in our new house long, but she has constructed an entertainment center made of wooden planks and cinder blocks; I think it is beautiful. Anywhere she has been she has left behind her the feeling of home like a magical cloud of sweet smelling smoke. She was a firm believer in her home rising up to meet her long before it was a concept, long before she had money to do it easily. I am 41 years old and I can tell you many of the albums in that stack, I can picture each of the covers; Jackson Browne-The Pretender, The Eagles-The Eagles, Hotel California, Linda Ronstadt-Simple Dreams, Greatest Hits, Heart Like A Wheel, Bob Seger-Live Bullet, Night Moves, Beautiful Loser, Pablo Cruise-A Place in The Sun, Willie Nelson-Red Headed Stranger, Fleetwood Mac-Rumours. Back then I listened to her music and I loved it, probably because I loved her; I wanted to be with her, I wanted to be like her, I wanted her to want me with her always. I listen to music all the time; it is what keeps me sane some days. My son has not one inch of respect for anything I listen to, none at all. Olivia and Grace (especially Grace) listen to what I love and take it for their own. So, it’s an interesting mix, they get what I listen to of my Mom’s; Fleetwood Mac, Linda, the Eagles and what I’m into now; Grace Potter, Brandi Carlile, Kris Delmhorst, Patti Griffin, The Lumineers, Maroon Five, Blake Shelton, the list goes on and on. I wonder if they will grow up and ask me why I listened to a particular song over and over again and what it meant to me when they are finally old enough to realize that not every thought I had was about them; I look forward to their questions.
As an adult I listen to it having experienced many of the things that my mom experienced in her life; I have loved, I have been broken, I have been disappointed, I have re-grouped and started again. Having spent the time between her death and now sort of re-inventing and re-claiming myself I now listen to those same songs and wonder what my mom was thinking thirty five years ago while she was playing with my hair on the couch. I know my mom’s love stories, I know her heart breaks, but I’d like to ask her more questions. I always have more questions... why wouldn’t you listen to Wasted Time? I love that song, did something or someone ruin it for you? Because, mom, I’ve got to tell you; I listen to that song and I just relate to it, I know you did too. There are things I want to tell her too, things that I should have or maybe even things I did but can’t recall; that drives me crazy. There was an Alabama song that sort of summed up my one big broken heart. It was called If I Had You and I literally couldn’t listen to it after we were over. My mom nursed me through that broken heart and one day, many, many years, a marriage and three kids later I walked into her house to find her crying, listening to that song. I was taken off guard because I not heard it in years and I’d had no idea it had any significance to her. I asked why she was crying, my mom wasn’t a crier like I am, and she was crying because she just remembered how wholly broken I had been and how sad she had been for not being able to help me, she told me there is nothing in the world like watching your child’s heart break and as a mother I can certainly understand that now. I don’t remember if I ever told her that she took that pain from me when she made it her own; I’ve been able to listen to If I Had You since that moment and I think she knew she kept my head above water then but I’d like to tell her again.
For now, I’m going to play The Eagles on my iPod, lean back in my recliner and nurse my wounds; physical and emotional, close my eyes and feel my childhood wash over me soaking me in 1970s southern California rock and the surety of my mom’s love.